Personhood amendments

Mississippi voters will decide on Tuesday whether or not to amend their state constitution to define human embryos as persons before the law.  But some pro-life groups don’t think this is a good idea.

An antiabortion movement that is gaining momentum nationwide is hoping for its first electoral victory Tuesday, when Mississippi voters will decide whether to designate a fertilized egg as a person and potentially label its destruction an act of murder.

If approved, the nation’s first “personhood” amendment could criminalize abortion and limit in-vitro fertilization and some forms of birth control. It also would give a jolt of energy to a national movement that views mainstream antiabortion activists as timid and complacent.

“They’ve just taken an incremental approach,” said Les Riley, the founder of Personhood Mississippi and father of 10 who initiated the state’s effort. “We’re just going to the heart of the matter, which is: Is this a person or not? God says it is, and science has confirmed it.”

“Life-at-conception” ballot initiatives in other parts of the country, including Colorado last year, have failed amid concerns about their far-reaching, and in some cases unforeseeable, implications.

But proponents of the amendment — who were inspired partly by the tea party movement — say they are more confident of victory in Mississippi, a Bible Belt state where antiabortion sentiment runs high and the laws governing the procedure are so strict that just one clinic provides abortions. . . .

Still, the measure has broad backing across party lines, with both the Republican and Democratic gubernatorial candidates voicing support for it (the Democrat, Johnny DuPree, has expressed concern about how it would affect birth control and in-vitro fertilization).

For years, the strategy favored by conservative activists nationally has been to gradually decrease access to abortion by cutting government funding and imposing restrictions, such as requiring women to view ultrasound images before the procedure.

The aim has been to reduce the number of abortions while awaiting a mix of justices on the U.S. Supreme Court that would be inclined to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that legalized abortion.

An energized group of activists has grown impatient with that approach. They take an uncompromising position on abortion, opposing it even in cases of rape and incest. Some also oppose making exceptions to save the life of the mother, arguing that both lives are equal and that doctors do not have the right to choose to save one over the other. Some even object to the term “fertilized egg.”

“It’s an embryo,” said Walter Hoye, a California pastor and president of the Issues 4 Life Foundation. “Calling it a fertilized egg is dehumanizing.”Personhood efforts are underway in more than a dozen states, including Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia and Ohio. The movement has grown recently with the help of passionate young antiabortion advocates and more seasoned activists who have grown disenchanted with the pace of change.

via Antiabortion movement hoping for electoral victory in Miss. – The Washington Post.

Do you think this is a good tactic for the pro-life movement?

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Michael B.

    I’m pro-choice, so one would naturally want to question my “advice” to the pro-life movement. If I were pro-life and wanted to win, I would stop with the personhood initiatives. Even if they pass voter approval, (which have failed in the past), they will fail once the court strikes them down. As people see the pro-life movement losing, people will abandon ship, as most people don’t want to be associated with a losing cause.

  • Michael B.

    I’m pro-choice, so one would naturally want to question my “advice” to the pro-life movement. If I were pro-life and wanted to win, I would stop with the personhood initiatives. Even if they pass voter approval, (which have failed in the past), they will fail once the court strikes them down. As people see the pro-life movement losing, people will abandon ship, as most people don’t want to be associated with a losing cause.

  • Tom Hering

    Michael B., I’m pro-choice too. I’m all for giving an unborn child the chance to make choices one day.

  • Tom Hering

    Michael B., I’m pro-choice too. I’m all for giving an unborn child the chance to make choices one day.

  • Cincinnatus

    Michael B., I’m a bit skeptical of personhood amendments–for reasons I’ll share if I have time today–but your comment is absurd. The whole pro-life movement is going to collapse because a court might strike down this initiative? The truth is that the “pro-life movement” has been a losing cause for almost forty years. In the meantime, it has only grown in numbers and legislative accomplishments (some of which have, indeed, been overturned in court). Is this the sort of argument you would have made after the Dred Scott decision?

  • Cincinnatus

    Michael B., I’m a bit skeptical of personhood amendments–for reasons I’ll share if I have time today–but your comment is absurd. The whole pro-life movement is going to collapse because a court might strike down this initiative? The truth is that the “pro-life movement” has been a losing cause for almost forty years. In the meantime, it has only grown in numbers and legislative accomplishments (some of which have, indeed, been overturned in court). Is this the sort of argument you would have made after the Dred Scott decision?

  • Michael B.

    Incidentally, I don’t really think the pro-life movement is about the fetus so much as it is about the role of women. In the pro-life movement, abortion is used as a facade to discuss the role of women. To illustrate this point, we may be approaching a point in science where the abortion rate radically decreases, not because of any anti-abortion laws, but because of medical science. It may be the case 30 years from now that there are almost no unplanned pregnancies — when a woman wants to get pregnant, she goes into a doctor’s office to reverse a previous procedure that temporarily prevented pregnancy. But even though there are little or no abortions, let us suppose that women would still greatly value their careers, demand equality, are sexual active outside of marriage, and see raising children as only one of their many roles. Despite the low abortion rate, many pro-lifers would consider this defeat. On the other hand, let us imagine a society in which the abortion-rate is sky-high, but women consider raising children their highest pursuit, marry young, have lots of kids, and consider jobs outside the home as something secondary or tertiary in their life’s work, and many are stay-at-home housewives. Most pro-lifers would find this scenario far more appealing, even though the abortion rate is very high. So the big question is, what is really the true goal of those who call themselves pro-life?

  • Michael B.

    Incidentally, I don’t really think the pro-life movement is about the fetus so much as it is about the role of women. In the pro-life movement, abortion is used as a facade to discuss the role of women. To illustrate this point, we may be approaching a point in science where the abortion rate radically decreases, not because of any anti-abortion laws, but because of medical science. It may be the case 30 years from now that there are almost no unplanned pregnancies — when a woman wants to get pregnant, she goes into a doctor’s office to reverse a previous procedure that temporarily prevented pregnancy. But even though there are little or no abortions, let us suppose that women would still greatly value their careers, demand equality, are sexual active outside of marriage, and see raising children as only one of their many roles. Despite the low abortion rate, many pro-lifers would consider this defeat. On the other hand, let us imagine a society in which the abortion-rate is sky-high, but women consider raising children their highest pursuit, marry young, have lots of kids, and consider jobs outside the home as something secondary or tertiary in their life’s work, and many are stay-at-home housewives. Most pro-lifers would find this scenario far more appealing, even though the abortion rate is very high. So the big question is, what is really the true goal of those who call themselves pro-life?

  • Cincinnatus

    Michael@4,

    1) “We may be approaching a point in science where the abortion rate radically decreases…because of…science.” Pro-choice advocates have been saying this for thirty years, but those who seek to make abortion both “safe and rare” have only succeeded in the former–which is perhaps why annual abortions number in the millions (!).

    Whatever the case, your utopian vision of the future is actually horrifying. Again, for reasons we can discuss later if I have time.

    2) Your comment fails to explain why the abortion debate is really about the role of women. For every single pro-lifer I’ve ever met, the issue has been about the dignity of life, the personhood of the fetus, etc. What has that to do with subjugating (as you seem to imply) women? None of them have even hinted that the secret agenda is to keep women in the home.

  • Cincinnatus

    Michael@4,

    1) “We may be approaching a point in science where the abortion rate radically decreases…because of…science.” Pro-choice advocates have been saying this for thirty years, but those who seek to make abortion both “safe and rare” have only succeeded in the former–which is perhaps why annual abortions number in the millions (!).

    Whatever the case, your utopian vision of the future is actually horrifying. Again, for reasons we can discuss later if I have time.

    2) Your comment fails to explain why the abortion debate is really about the role of women. For every single pro-lifer I’ve ever met, the issue has been about the dignity of life, the personhood of the fetus, etc. What has that to do with subjugating (as you seem to imply) women? None of them have even hinted that the secret agenda is to keep women in the home.

  • Jonathan

    The pastor in the article said, “it’s an embryo, calling it a fertilized egg is dehumanizing.”

    Like “embryo” is any less dehumanizing?

    I’d take Horton’s creed: A person’s a person, no matter how small.

    I think it is a good approach to beg the question. A court will obviously try to side-step it if possible. But I don’t know how they can, if the reason for the law is a “compelling state interest” to protect a person. To strike down the law in the face of a compelling state interest as defined by the state and the will of the people means they have to say the state’s compelling interest is not compellingiiinother words, here, that there is no person being protected.

    Isn’t that a precipice to a really slippery slope?

  • Jonathan

    The pastor in the article said, “it’s an embryo, calling it a fertilized egg is dehumanizing.”

    Like “embryo” is any less dehumanizing?

    I’d take Horton’s creed: A person’s a person, no matter how small.

    I think it is a good approach to beg the question. A court will obviously try to side-step it if possible. But I don’t know how they can, if the reason for the law is a “compelling state interest” to protect a person. To strike down the law in the face of a compelling state interest as defined by the state and the will of the people means they have to say the state’s compelling interest is not compellingiiinother words, here, that there is no person being protected.

    Isn’t that a precipice to a really slippery slope?

  • Jonathan

    Cinn @5, have abortionists really made their craft safer for the mothers? Seems lots of anecdotes lately about abortion mills with really atrocious records in the health and safety front.

  • Jonathan

    Cinn @5, have abortionists really made their craft safer for the mothers? Seems lots of anecdotes lately about abortion mills with really atrocious records in the health and safety front.

  • Dr. Luther in the 21st Century

    My advice go for it, but make sure the law goes after the provider, not the mother. Albeit for consistency sake, a woman should be tried for attempting to hire someone to commit murder as that is a crime when hiring a person to kill someone older. But for the time, they should just go after providers if only to eliminate the punishing women argument.

    @#5 in reference to part 2. Pro-choicers know they cannot win on the basis of facts so they are trying the emotional route by claiming Pro-lifers are out to keep women in their proper place aka pregnant and in the kitchen.

  • Dr. Luther in the 21st Century

    My advice go for it, but make sure the law goes after the provider, not the mother. Albeit for consistency sake, a woman should be tried for attempting to hire someone to commit murder as that is a crime when hiring a person to kill someone older. But for the time, they should just go after providers if only to eliminate the punishing women argument.

    @#5 in reference to part 2. Pro-choicers know they cannot win on the basis of facts so they are trying the emotional route by claiming Pro-lifers are out to keep women in their proper place aka pregnant and in the kitchen.

  • Tyler

    @ Michael B. – I would profoundly disagree that the pro-life movement is about the role of women in society. Shifting the concept of abortion from being the “killing of a baby” to a woman’s “right to privacy” was effectively using the role of women to mask the use of abortion. Originally, it’s what was used to get Roe v. Wade decided. It is exactly opposite of your position.

    That being said, the pro-life cause needs to be careful in such tactics. Montana has attempted to do this twice now and has failed both times. Constitutional scholars in my state have commented that there comes a point when the amount of popular defeats of something can be used in court to strike down a legislative approach later on. It’s not sound legal ground, but that’s the direction that much of legal scholarship (at least in Montana) as gone.

    An example would be, Montana, by popular vote defeats a personhood Montana constitutional amendment twice. Then, there is a majority of pr0-life supporters in the state house and senate and a conservative governor signs a bill that statutorily defines what a “person” is from beginning to end (these bills also address eldercide issues as well). In the legal contest that is sure to go to the Montana Supreme Court, the court can very well use the “precedent” of the people’s rejection of the referendum as an argument to strike down such legislation. You then have a state supreme court ruling striking down such legislation and it’s extremely difficult to use the legislature for further reducing of abortions.

    IF, this were to occur, having the state supreme court strike down some of the strongest anti-abortion language possible, you might make it extremely difficult to ever stop the flow. More conservative approaches would be to NOT use the personhood approach and to continue the incremental approach until the courts are at the right point for something like this to actually survive a legal challenge.

    There is a quite a large divide in the Montana pro-life movement in this area. The Montana Family Foundation has very decidedly taken the route of using the incremental approach. The Montana Pro-Life Coalition has, for the past 6 years, heavily pushed the personhood initiative. We shall see how it turns out.

  • Tyler

    @ Michael B. – I would profoundly disagree that the pro-life movement is about the role of women in society. Shifting the concept of abortion from being the “killing of a baby” to a woman’s “right to privacy” was effectively using the role of women to mask the use of abortion. Originally, it’s what was used to get Roe v. Wade decided. It is exactly opposite of your position.

    That being said, the pro-life cause needs to be careful in such tactics. Montana has attempted to do this twice now and has failed both times. Constitutional scholars in my state have commented that there comes a point when the amount of popular defeats of something can be used in court to strike down a legislative approach later on. It’s not sound legal ground, but that’s the direction that much of legal scholarship (at least in Montana) as gone.

    An example would be, Montana, by popular vote defeats a personhood Montana constitutional amendment twice. Then, there is a majority of pr0-life supporters in the state house and senate and a conservative governor signs a bill that statutorily defines what a “person” is from beginning to end (these bills also address eldercide issues as well). In the legal contest that is sure to go to the Montana Supreme Court, the court can very well use the “precedent” of the people’s rejection of the referendum as an argument to strike down such legislation. You then have a state supreme court ruling striking down such legislation and it’s extremely difficult to use the legislature for further reducing of abortions.

    IF, this were to occur, having the state supreme court strike down some of the strongest anti-abortion language possible, you might make it extremely difficult to ever stop the flow. More conservative approaches would be to NOT use the personhood approach and to continue the incremental approach until the courts are at the right point for something like this to actually survive a legal challenge.

    There is a quite a large divide in the Montana pro-life movement in this area. The Montana Family Foundation has very decidedly taken the route of using the incremental approach. The Montana Pro-Life Coalition has, for the past 6 years, heavily pushed the personhood initiative. We shall see how it turns out.

  • Tyler

    One also needs to note the use of forcing abortion clinics (or in the language of the bill, all clinics) to have a certain level of safety, doctors, etc that has been put into place in Virginia. It has done a very effective job of limiting the number of abortion clinics that can operate due to the regulations.

  • Tyler

    One also needs to note the use of forcing abortion clinics (or in the language of the bill, all clinics) to have a certain level of safety, doctors, etc that has been put into place in Virginia. It has done a very effective job of limiting the number of abortion clinics that can operate due to the regulations.

  • http://www.matthewcochran.net/blog Matt Cochran

    So… we shouldn’t worry about millions of children being killed left and right because there’s an old legend that someday Science will make it so that we can get what we’ve been taught to want without murdering children.

    This is less than compelling.

    Oh, and if the only way you can illustrate your point is by imagining the way people that you don’t understand would behave in the future as a result of entirely speculative changes, then you probably don’t have much of a point in the first place.

  • http://www.matthewcochran.net/blog Matt Cochran

    So… we shouldn’t worry about millions of children being killed left and right because there’s an old legend that someday Science will make it so that we can get what we’ve been taught to want without murdering children.

    This is less than compelling.

    Oh, and if the only way you can illustrate your point is by imagining the way people that you don’t understand would behave in the future as a result of entirely speculative changes, then you probably don’t have much of a point in the first place.

  • Jerry

    Tactics, aims…whatever happened to what is principled and right. There is no question that pro-lifers believe human life begins at conception; there is no other philosophical starting point. Birth could have been, but science long ago eliminated that as a point of reference.

    Furthermore, the only reference point in the word of God is conception. However, religion need not be brought into the discussion at all.

    There is no principled reason to gradually chip away at pro-abortion laws. It’s hypocritical to yield to the pro-abortion forces hoping to eventually achieve the goal of protecting human life from the time of conception. If people believe life begins at conception, and should be protected, then that is the stand they should take.

    There are too many taking pro-life stands who love to shine in the glory of whatever victories they may obtain. I don’t challenge their beliefs, but believe they’re allowing their pride in taking small steps to take priority over their principles.

  • Jerry

    Tactics, aims…whatever happened to what is principled and right. There is no question that pro-lifers believe human life begins at conception; there is no other philosophical starting point. Birth could have been, but science long ago eliminated that as a point of reference.

    Furthermore, the only reference point in the word of God is conception. However, religion need not be brought into the discussion at all.

    There is no principled reason to gradually chip away at pro-abortion laws. It’s hypocritical to yield to the pro-abortion forces hoping to eventually achieve the goal of protecting human life from the time of conception. If people believe life begins at conception, and should be protected, then that is the stand they should take.

    There are too many taking pro-life stands who love to shine in the glory of whatever victories they may obtain. I don’t challenge their beliefs, but believe they’re allowing their pride in taking small steps to take priority over their principles.

  • kerner

    Michael B @4:

    Others have already said this, but your view that the pro-life movement is “really” about how pro-lifers want to treat women is pretty much wishful thinking on your part. It’s all about how women behave and are treated for you pro-choice folks, so you project that on us. Our view is the converse, that you people want so badly to change the way society treats women that wou are willing to reduce and entire group of people to the status of property (that can be killed with impunity) to change (and supposedly elevate) the status of women. You seem to us like southern slave owners complaining that the abolitionists want to violate their “rights”. Well, what kind of “rights” are those that de-humanize other people? And, does it really elevate the status of women to dehumanize her children? I (but more importantly, a great many women) don’t see it your way at all.

    Frankly, it wouldn’t bother me in the least if medical science gives us a level of fool proof contraception such that all babies are planned. Except, you’ll find shortly thereafter that you might need a license to have a baby if that becomes the case. On the other hand, we can’t be any farther away from an atrificial womb, either, such that killing an unwanted child becomes utterly unnecessary for a pregnant woman in distress. The baby could live, and the woman’s life could go on as before without a hiccup. How does that sound to you?

    As for tactics, the only real tactic is to have a pro-life (or at least anti Roe v. Wade) majority of Supreme Court Justices and to then bring the issue before them. Anything else will not work.

  • kerner

    Michael B @4:

    Others have already said this, but your view that the pro-life movement is “really” about how pro-lifers want to treat women is pretty much wishful thinking on your part. It’s all about how women behave and are treated for you pro-choice folks, so you project that on us. Our view is the converse, that you people want so badly to change the way society treats women that wou are willing to reduce and entire group of people to the status of property (that can be killed with impunity) to change (and supposedly elevate) the status of women. You seem to us like southern slave owners complaining that the abolitionists want to violate their “rights”. Well, what kind of “rights” are those that de-humanize other people? And, does it really elevate the status of women to dehumanize her children? I (but more importantly, a great many women) don’t see it your way at all.

    Frankly, it wouldn’t bother me in the least if medical science gives us a level of fool proof contraception such that all babies are planned. Except, you’ll find shortly thereafter that you might need a license to have a baby if that becomes the case. On the other hand, we can’t be any farther away from an atrificial womb, either, such that killing an unwanted child becomes utterly unnecessary for a pregnant woman in distress. The baby could live, and the woman’s life could go on as before without a hiccup. How does that sound to you?

    As for tactics, the only real tactic is to have a pro-life (or at least anti Roe v. Wade) majority of Supreme Court Justices and to then bring the issue before them. Anything else will not work.

  • steve

    Michael B., I’ve been reading your posts the last few days and it seems to me like you have some serious misconceptions about what Conservatives believe. If I’m understanding you correctly, you might want to sit down with a few, with and open mind, and listen to what they say without assuming they mean something other what what they’re saying.

  • steve

    Michael B., I’ve been reading your posts the last few days and it seems to me like you have some serious misconceptions about what Conservatives believe. If I’m understanding you correctly, you might want to sit down with a few, with and open mind, and listen to what they say without assuming they mean something other what what they’re saying.

  • DonS

    The law already recognizes the personhood of fetuses for the purpose of laws prohibiting murder. If someone kills or injures a pregnant woman, and that act results in the death of the fetus the woman is carrying, that person can and often is charged with murder in most, if not all, states.

    Somehow, however, largely I suspect because of attitudes like that of Michael B., society lives with this obvious contradiction and logical fallacy. So, I don’t think the personhood amendments will have any useful effect, other than perhaps one of enlightenment, until Roe v. Wade is struck down.

  • DonS

    The law already recognizes the personhood of fetuses for the purpose of laws prohibiting murder. If someone kills or injures a pregnant woman, and that act results in the death of the fetus the woman is carrying, that person can and often is charged with murder in most, if not all, states.

    Somehow, however, largely I suspect because of attitudes like that of Michael B., society lives with this obvious contradiction and logical fallacy. So, I don’t think the personhood amendments will have any useful effect, other than perhaps one of enlightenment, until Roe v. Wade is struck down.

  • anonymous

    >Frankly, it wouldn’t bother me in the least if medical science gives us a level of fool proof contraception such that all babies are planned.<

    This woman, recently pregnant and standing right now in the kitchen (but wearing socks), considers a society where "all babies are planned" completely repulsive (and frankly, misogynistic, misanthropic, and unchristian).

    Everyone–conservative, liberal, Christian or not–thinks " barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen" as horrifying. Just below physical beating in the scale of abuse. However, consider:

    Barefoot: ; probably indicates poverty. So being poor is evil. Or perhaps submission. So Christ was wrong to submit to the Father, ESPECIALLY since they are equal.

    Pregnant: creating and protecting another human. Maybe our post-industrial society thinks "manufacturing," which of course is degrading. But women aren't "baby-factories," even if they have 4 babies in 5 years (or 19 babies…). Funny, but words like "freezing," "implanting," "fertilization," "surrugate," etc., sound a little more factory-like and sterile and inhuman.

    In the Kitchen: Preparing food. I will not go into detail about the theological implications of bread, banquet, feast, wine, etc. I'll just say making a fine dinner for your family is not degrading. But frequent fast-food might be ("your health and pleasure are not worth my time") This also touches on hating the poor, since it is much more frugal to prepare your own everything.

    Finding yourself 'unexpectedly' pregnant, within marriage, of course, is one of the best things in the world, and so far my husband and I have found ourselves in the family way 4 times (yes, in 5 years). You all who are in favor of "planning babies" need to read some poetry and consider your wife's beauty and why you love her and married her and go home and tell her all about it. That how babies are made, praise God. It is so ironic (and a bit gnostic) that our obscene culture hates that flesh and emotions make babies. They should be made out of our mind, you know, completely rationally.

    (Yes, maybe "baby planning" is better for the fornicating or adulterous situation, but isn't it amazing that God grants life even when people sin? Many a happily married couple will confess that they were caught in their sin by conceiving, and then married. Or a single mom (or dad) will tell you that while they regret their sin, and of course a single-parent household is not ideal–their child is the best thing that happened to them, and probably brought them away from complete self-destruction. One sin does not justify another.)

    Sorry, derailed the conversation. I'm all about states limiting abortions. Just wanted to defend my legitimate and completely honorable vocation of "makin' babies."

  • anonymous

    >Frankly, it wouldn’t bother me in the least if medical science gives us a level of fool proof contraception such that all babies are planned.<

    This woman, recently pregnant and standing right now in the kitchen (but wearing socks), considers a society where "all babies are planned" completely repulsive (and frankly, misogynistic, misanthropic, and unchristian).

    Everyone–conservative, liberal, Christian or not–thinks " barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen" as horrifying. Just below physical beating in the scale of abuse. However, consider:

    Barefoot: ; probably indicates poverty. So being poor is evil. Or perhaps submission. So Christ was wrong to submit to the Father, ESPECIALLY since they are equal.

    Pregnant: creating and protecting another human. Maybe our post-industrial society thinks "manufacturing," which of course is degrading. But women aren't "baby-factories," even if they have 4 babies in 5 years (or 19 babies…). Funny, but words like "freezing," "implanting," "fertilization," "surrugate," etc., sound a little more factory-like and sterile and inhuman.

    In the Kitchen: Preparing food. I will not go into detail about the theological implications of bread, banquet, feast, wine, etc. I'll just say making a fine dinner for your family is not degrading. But frequent fast-food might be ("your health and pleasure are not worth my time") This also touches on hating the poor, since it is much more frugal to prepare your own everything.

    Finding yourself 'unexpectedly' pregnant, within marriage, of course, is one of the best things in the world, and so far my husband and I have found ourselves in the family way 4 times (yes, in 5 years). You all who are in favor of "planning babies" need to read some poetry and consider your wife's beauty and why you love her and married her and go home and tell her all about it. That how babies are made, praise God. It is so ironic (and a bit gnostic) that our obscene culture hates that flesh and emotions make babies. They should be made out of our mind, you know, completely rationally.

    (Yes, maybe "baby planning" is better for the fornicating or adulterous situation, but isn't it amazing that God grants life even when people sin? Many a happily married couple will confess that they were caught in their sin by conceiving, and then married. Or a single mom (or dad) will tell you that while they regret their sin, and of course a single-parent household is not ideal–their child is the best thing that happened to them, and probably brought them away from complete self-destruction. One sin does not justify another.)

    Sorry, derailed the conversation. I'm all about states limiting abortions. Just wanted to defend my legitimate and completely honorable vocation of "makin' babies."

  • Gary

    Let me assure you, this is an absurd strategy which only serves to illustrate the desperation of the contemporary anti-abortion movement. Roe v. Wade is not going to be struck down. This is an attempt to use a referendum to force a court decision down the line, one (it is hoped) that declares a human embryo to be a human person with protected rights. It isn’t going to happen, for the simplest of all reasons: it isn’t true. Or rather, it’s only true according to certain religious viewpoints, and those viewpoints will never be given any consideration in court.

  • Gary

    Let me assure you, this is an absurd strategy which only serves to illustrate the desperation of the contemporary anti-abortion movement. Roe v. Wade is not going to be struck down. This is an attempt to use a referendum to force a court decision down the line, one (it is hoped) that declares a human embryo to be a human person with protected rights. It isn’t going to happen, for the simplest of all reasons: it isn’t true. Or rather, it’s only true according to certain religious viewpoints, and those viewpoints will never be given any consideration in court.

  • kerner

    anonymous @14:

    Easy there Madam. The lovely and gracious Mrs. K found herself in the family way five times, and plenty of those were unexpected. I didn’t mean to disrespect your vocation, which, incedently, my daughters are now pursuing in as pure a form as they can muster.

    I just meant to say that, when we make decisions about where to apply the force of law, protecting the sanctity of human life (especially for the helpless) is top priority. While I agree with you on the structure of the family, I don’t think that a country based on liberty uses force to achieve that.

    And, I think that one reason we ended up with Roe v. Wade is that seven Supreme Court Justices (old men, every one of them) thought of abortion as nothing more than a form of contraception, and thought not at all of the humanity of the pre-born child. And we’ve been stuck with the results of that kind of thinking ever since.

  • kerner

    anonymous @14:

    Easy there Madam. The lovely and gracious Mrs. K found herself in the family way five times, and plenty of those were unexpected. I didn’t mean to disrespect your vocation, which, incedently, my daughters are now pursuing in as pure a form as they can muster.

    I just meant to say that, when we make decisions about where to apply the force of law, protecting the sanctity of human life (especially for the helpless) is top priority. While I agree with you on the structure of the family, I don’t think that a country based on liberty uses force to achieve that.

    And, I think that one reason we ended up with Roe v. Wade is that seven Supreme Court Justices (old men, every one of them) thought of abortion as nothing more than a form of contraception, and thought not at all of the humanity of the pre-born child. And we’ve been stuck with the results of that kind of thinking ever since.

  • kerner

    Gary:

    On the contrary, everything we have learned about biology, genetics, DNA and obstetrics, and virtually all other science supports the conclusion that the fertilized egg is a distinct human life. Highly dependent yes. But the level of dependence of a newly fertilized egg is not substantially different from the level of dependence of a newborn infant. The difference is one of degree.

    Every human being, however dependent on others temporarily, has “protected rights”. Sooner or later, the utter, unscientific, absurdity of denying that a fertilized egg is a “human being” will become untenable, even for Supreme Court justices. When that day arrives, Roe v. Wade will be overturned.

  • kerner

    Gary:

    On the contrary, everything we have learned about biology, genetics, DNA and obstetrics, and virtually all other science supports the conclusion that the fertilized egg is a distinct human life. Highly dependent yes. But the level of dependence of a newly fertilized egg is not substantially different from the level of dependence of a newborn infant. The difference is one of degree.

    Every human being, however dependent on others temporarily, has “protected rights”. Sooner or later, the utter, unscientific, absurdity of denying that a fertilized egg is a “human being” will become untenable, even for Supreme Court justices. When that day arrives, Roe v. Wade will be overturned.

  • Gary

    Kerner, whatever yer drinkin’, I’ll have a double.

    It is indisputable that “life begins at conception.” You are correct, on the basis of DNA just for openers, that the conclusion that the embryo is an individual human form of life will eventually be inescapable.

    I think it highly unlikely any court will presume to give a legal definition to the abstract concept of what is or is not a “person.” Yes, for purposes of certain murder charges, where a pregnant woman is killed and her unborn child also dies as a result, the courts view it as a double “homicide,” but it’s a legal fiction, merely intended to add to the penalty if the perp is found guilty. By that legal fiction the courts do not presume to be declaring a human embryo is actually a person.

    Frankly, I think there’s a better chance of logically concluding my dog is a person than an embryo–unless, of course, you try insisting that God has ordained only human beings are persons. I wish you well with _that_ argument!

  • Gary

    Kerner, whatever yer drinkin’, I’ll have a double.

    It is indisputable that “life begins at conception.” You are correct, on the basis of DNA just for openers, that the conclusion that the embryo is an individual human form of life will eventually be inescapable.

    I think it highly unlikely any court will presume to give a legal definition to the abstract concept of what is or is not a “person.” Yes, for purposes of certain murder charges, where a pregnant woman is killed and her unborn child also dies as a result, the courts view it as a double “homicide,” but it’s a legal fiction, merely intended to add to the penalty if the perp is found guilty. By that legal fiction the courts do not presume to be declaring a human embryo is actually a person.

    Frankly, I think there’s a better chance of logically concluding my dog is a person than an embryo–unless, of course, you try insisting that God has ordained only human beings are persons. I wish you well with _that_ argument!

  • Cincinnatus

    Gary@20,

    Kerner is actually correct. “Science” has, in fact, demonstrated that the embryo from the moment of conception is a self-perpetuating, independent entity. Robert George (yes, he’s biased about this issue, but also intelligent and even-handed when sharing the evidence) has done a nice job summarizing this scientific work in his various publications. Whether we decide that such a self-perpetuating human organism constitutes a person is entirely arbitrary (i.e., it is the pro-choicers who are arbitrary in this case). Is a human being a person when it takes its first unaided breath? When it exits the womb? When it is no longer dependent upon the mother? When it demonstrates free agency? All of these are possible definitions of “personhood,” but you have to recognize that they are all arbitrary, and that they all have problematic aspects. I’m not here arguing that any one of these definitions of personhood is false, but “science” actually happens to be on the side of pro-lifers on this question.

    Meanwhile, it’s not very difficult to argue (indeed, perhaps prove) that human beings evince a qualitatively distinct kind of being–let us call it personhood–that dogs do not have. Only a few trendy contemporary philosophers (mostly hyper-pragmatists and post-structuralists) have indulged the contrary position. But that’s a debate for another time…

  • Cincinnatus

    Gary@20,

    Kerner is actually correct. “Science” has, in fact, demonstrated that the embryo from the moment of conception is a self-perpetuating, independent entity. Robert George (yes, he’s biased about this issue, but also intelligent and even-handed when sharing the evidence) has done a nice job summarizing this scientific work in his various publications. Whether we decide that such a self-perpetuating human organism constitutes a person is entirely arbitrary (i.e., it is the pro-choicers who are arbitrary in this case). Is a human being a person when it takes its first unaided breath? When it exits the womb? When it is no longer dependent upon the mother? When it demonstrates free agency? All of these are possible definitions of “personhood,” but you have to recognize that they are all arbitrary, and that they all have problematic aspects. I’m not here arguing that any one of these definitions of personhood is false, but “science” actually happens to be on the side of pro-lifers on this question.

    Meanwhile, it’s not very difficult to argue (indeed, perhaps prove) that human beings evince a qualitatively distinct kind of being–let us call it personhood–that dogs do not have. Only a few trendy contemporary philosophers (mostly hyper-pragmatists and post-structuralists) have indulged the contrary position. But that’s a debate for another time…

  • The Jones

    Gary,

    Whoa…. So, if a pregnant woman is killed and her baby dies, that’s a double homicide. That’s not “legal fiction.” It’s actually legal fact, on the books. If that fact is based on a fantasy, then it needs to be changed. I’m rather uncomfortable with your flimsy distinction between fact and fiction.

    You said “I think it highly unlikely any court will presume to give a legal definition to the abstract concept of what is or is not a ‘person.’” Well, of course the court won’t. The people of Mississippi will. But the court always gives legal definitions to abstract concepts like “cruel and unusual,” “due process,” “undue burden,” “unreasonable,” and on and on. I just don’t think you know what you’re talking about here.

    And if you think that a dog has a better chance of being a person than an embryo, then you must not know what a person is. But since you have a flimsy distinction between fact and fiction, changing the definitions of words might not bother you like it does most people.

  • The Jones

    Gary,

    Whoa…. So, if a pregnant woman is killed and her baby dies, that’s a double homicide. That’s not “legal fiction.” It’s actually legal fact, on the books. If that fact is based on a fantasy, then it needs to be changed. I’m rather uncomfortable with your flimsy distinction between fact and fiction.

    You said “I think it highly unlikely any court will presume to give a legal definition to the abstract concept of what is or is not a ‘person.’” Well, of course the court won’t. The people of Mississippi will. But the court always gives legal definitions to abstract concepts like “cruel and unusual,” “due process,” “undue burden,” “unreasonable,” and on and on. I just don’t think you know what you’re talking about here.

    And if you think that a dog has a better chance of being a person than an embryo, then you must not know what a person is. But since you have a flimsy distinction between fact and fiction, changing the definitions of words might not bother you like it does most people.

  • Gary

    The Jones: Really? Flimsy, huh?

    The same system that allows legal abortion also charges people with double homicide (sometimes) when a pregnant mother is murdered, which appears to be whacked, until you realize that _I_ am not the one with a flimsy or fictional idea of personhood, but rather the courts. I take it for granted that charges of double homicide are only possible because there are circumstances when society thinks it expedient to call the life in the womb a “person,” and circumstances when it is not expedient.

    Considering unique DNA, considering viability outside the womb, considering ability to think and to feel, considering pet dogs are given “personal” names–you try to define the word “person” in a way that includes a newly fertilized egg but also excludes my dog. I’m not saying my dog is a person. I’m saying arriving at solid, legal definitions isn’t as easy as it appears at first.

  • Gary

    The Jones: Really? Flimsy, huh?

    The same system that allows legal abortion also charges people with double homicide (sometimes) when a pregnant mother is murdered, which appears to be whacked, until you realize that _I_ am not the one with a flimsy or fictional idea of personhood, but rather the courts. I take it for granted that charges of double homicide are only possible because there are circumstances when society thinks it expedient to call the life in the womb a “person,” and circumstances when it is not expedient.

    Considering unique DNA, considering viability outside the womb, considering ability to think and to feel, considering pet dogs are given “personal” names–you try to define the word “person” in a way that includes a newly fertilized egg but also excludes my dog. I’m not saying my dog is a person. I’m saying arriving at solid, legal definitions isn’t as easy as it appears at first.

  • The Jones

    Gary,

    I accept your challenge to legally define the word “person” in a way that includes a newly fertilized egg but also excludes your dog:

    In order to legally be a person, you must be a living human being.

    As to your other point, it’s not so much that you have a flimsy idea of personhood, it’s that you don’t even have an idea of personhood. You appear to say that whatever distinctions people decide, even if it is contradictory, like the double-homicide/abortion thing, is acceptable. You might make fun of it, but you don’t really make a case for changing it. I say that you can’t have contradictory definitions in law, and you must decide one way in this case (pregnant mother homicides are not homicides) or the other (fetuses are humans).

  • The Jones

    Gary,

    I accept your challenge to legally define the word “person” in a way that includes a newly fertilized egg but also excludes your dog:

    In order to legally be a person, you must be a living human being.

    As to your other point, it’s not so much that you have a flimsy idea of personhood, it’s that you don’t even have an idea of personhood. You appear to say that whatever distinctions people decide, even if it is contradictory, like the double-homicide/abortion thing, is acceptable. You might make fun of it, but you don’t really make a case for changing it. I say that you can’t have contradictory definitions in law, and you must decide one way in this case (pregnant mother homicides are not homicides) or the other (fetuses are humans).

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Gary, given that you wrote (@20) that:

    the conclusion that the embryo is an individual human form of life will eventually be inescapable

    Please tell us when that human becomes a person.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Gary, given that you wrote (@20) that:

    the conclusion that the embryo is an individual human form of life will eventually be inescapable

    Please tell us when that human becomes a person.

  • kerner

    Gary:

    You said:
    “This is an attempt to use a referendum to force a court decision down the line, one (it is hoped) that declares a human embryo to be a human person with protected rights. It isn’t going to happen, for the simplest of all reasons: it isn’t true. Or rather, it’s only true according to certain religious viewpoints, and those viewpoints will never be given any consideration in court.”

    And yet later you concede that human embryos are inescabably “human life form[s]“.

    Don’t you see that you have bought into a contradictory fallacy? Don’t you see how much you sound like a slave owner in the 1850′s saying, “Well sure, African slaves are technally ‘human’, but my dog has a better chance of being declared a ‘person’, with protected rights, because to call an African slave a person ‘simply isn’t true’.”?

    Ceertainly there must have been people back then that thought the Dred Scott decision would never be overturned (including the authors of the Dred Scott decision), Read it sometime; you’ll be amazed at how much the condescending tone of that decision sounds like you. It seems to dismiss all that abolitionist finagling as a lot of legal mumbo jumbo and orders abolitionists to just get over it. Slave owners had the right to own slaves and that would never be circumvented by a trying to redefine a slave as a person with rights…

    http://supreme.justia.com/us/60/393/case.html

  • kerner

    Gary:

    You said:
    “This is an attempt to use a referendum to force a court decision down the line, one (it is hoped) that declares a human embryo to be a human person with protected rights. It isn’t going to happen, for the simplest of all reasons: it isn’t true. Or rather, it’s only true according to certain religious viewpoints, and those viewpoints will never be given any consideration in court.”

    And yet later you concede that human embryos are inescabably “human life form[s]“.

    Don’t you see that you have bought into a contradictory fallacy? Don’t you see how much you sound like a slave owner in the 1850′s saying, “Well sure, African slaves are technally ‘human’, but my dog has a better chance of being declared a ‘person’, with protected rights, because to call an African slave a person ‘simply isn’t true’.”?

    Ceertainly there must have been people back then that thought the Dred Scott decision would never be overturned (including the authors of the Dred Scott decision), Read it sometime; you’ll be amazed at how much the condescending tone of that decision sounds like you. It seems to dismiss all that abolitionist finagling as a lot of legal mumbo jumbo and orders abolitionists to just get over it. Slave owners had the right to own slaves and that would never be circumvented by a trying to redefine a slave as a person with rights…

    http://supreme.justia.com/us/60/393/case.html

  • Booklover

    an aside to Michael B. @ 4:

    The most pro-life woman I know is the best professional musician/performer/teacher in our city who was raped, and kept her child.

    Another pro-life woman is a doctor here who became pregnant out of wedlock, and kept her twins to raise them alone.

    You need to get out more.

  • Booklover

    an aside to Michael B. @ 4:

    The most pro-life woman I know is the best professional musician/performer/teacher in our city who was raped, and kept her child.

    Another pro-life woman is a doctor here who became pregnant out of wedlock, and kept her twins to raise them alone.

    You need to get out more.

  • Michael B.

    @steve @14

    “you might want to sit down with a few conservatives”

    It depends on what kind of conservative. Imagine it’s several years ago and a liberal is debating with a pro-war conservative who advocated military action in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the liberal tells the pro-war conservative that the war is a horrible idea. I can guarantee you the pro-war conservative will have very compelling reasons to give why military action is necessary. You may disagree with the pro-war conservative, but you can’t just dismiss him outright. And the pro-war conservative’s reasons are so good that he will be able to convince people across multiple religions, economic classes, and races that war is necessary. Another conservative group that has good arguments and has been wildly successful in promoting its agenda are the pro-gun-rights groups. If a liberal tells an NRA member that gun-ownership should be illegal, he will give the liberal really good reasons to change his mind. And most importantly, one doesn’t have to be religious to buy the NRA member’s arguments.

    Compare this to a pro-life conservative. The first difference you notice in the success. Notice how much success the NRA and neoconservatives have had compared to the pro-life conservatives. Second, notice the wide-appeal. Many secularists own guns or supported the Bush-era wars. On the other hand, how often do you meet a pro-lifer that isn’t religious and doesn’t support traditional roles for women? Lastly, look at the arguments used. The central belief of the pro-lifer is that the fetus is a person whom God has made in his image and endowed with the right to life. And it doesn’t matter if the pregnancy will ruin the woman’s life, because “God is sovereign over every pregnancy” and “the fetus is sacred because it’s a person, whose is at a very early stage of development, but a person nonetheless”. It’s far less common to see neoconservatives and NRA conservatates invoking God to defend their position. Supporting the Iraq war doesn’t mean I’ll have to believe dogmas such as a fertilized egg has the moral equivalence of a toddler. To their credit, a lot of pro-lifers have seen this problem and have attempted to come up with secular arguments of why abortion should be made illegal, but these arguments are often horrible. I think of the abortion-breast cancer link, the secret plan to exterminate black people, and how Planned Parenthood helps child predators. Their secular reasons are just as bad as their religious ones.

  • Michael B.

    @steve @14

    “you might want to sit down with a few conservatives”

    It depends on what kind of conservative. Imagine it’s several years ago and a liberal is debating with a pro-war conservative who advocated military action in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the liberal tells the pro-war conservative that the war is a horrible idea. I can guarantee you the pro-war conservative will have very compelling reasons to give why military action is necessary. You may disagree with the pro-war conservative, but you can’t just dismiss him outright. And the pro-war conservative’s reasons are so good that he will be able to convince people across multiple religions, economic classes, and races that war is necessary. Another conservative group that has good arguments and has been wildly successful in promoting its agenda are the pro-gun-rights groups. If a liberal tells an NRA member that gun-ownership should be illegal, he will give the liberal really good reasons to change his mind. And most importantly, one doesn’t have to be religious to buy the NRA member’s arguments.

    Compare this to a pro-life conservative. The first difference you notice in the success. Notice how much success the NRA and neoconservatives have had compared to the pro-life conservatives. Second, notice the wide-appeal. Many secularists own guns or supported the Bush-era wars. On the other hand, how often do you meet a pro-lifer that isn’t religious and doesn’t support traditional roles for women? Lastly, look at the arguments used. The central belief of the pro-lifer is that the fetus is a person whom God has made in his image and endowed with the right to life. And it doesn’t matter if the pregnancy will ruin the woman’s life, because “God is sovereign over every pregnancy” and “the fetus is sacred because it’s a person, whose is at a very early stage of development, but a person nonetheless”. It’s far less common to see neoconservatives and NRA conservatates invoking God to defend their position. Supporting the Iraq war doesn’t mean I’ll have to believe dogmas such as a fertilized egg has the moral equivalence of a toddler. To their credit, a lot of pro-lifers have seen this problem and have attempted to come up with secular arguments of why abortion should be made illegal, but these arguments are often horrible. I think of the abortion-breast cancer link, the secret plan to exterminate black people, and how Planned Parenthood helps child predators. Their secular reasons are just as bad as their religious ones.

  • Dr. Luther in the 21st Century

    @ #28 Michael
    An embryo is a genetically unique individual worthy of the protection of the laws of his or her country just as any other genetically unique individual is worthy of protection. Did I invoke God? No. Now stop digging a hole for your argument.

  • Dr. Luther in the 21st Century

    @ #28 Michael
    An embryo is a genetically unique individual worthy of the protection of the laws of his or her country just as any other genetically unique individual is worthy of protection. Did I invoke God? No. Now stop digging a hole for your argument.

  • Cincinnatus

    Michael B.,

    I have no idea what the purpose of your screed @28 was. You won’t talk to pro-life conservatives because they haven’t been successful in the realm of policy and because some of the argument they might make will be religiously inflected? I think this just demonstrates all the more that you need actually to talk to a real, live conservative.

  • Cincinnatus

    Michael B.,

    I have no idea what the purpose of your screed @28 was. You won’t talk to pro-life conservatives because they haven’t been successful in the realm of policy and because some of the argument they might make will be religiously inflected? I think this just demonstrates all the more that you need actually to talk to a real, live conservative.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “it doesn’t matter if the pregnancy will ruin the woman’s life”

    Hilarious. How exactly is a pregnancy going to ruin a woman’s life? Probably more likely the opposite. Childlessness and delayed childbearing are very significant risk factors for mental and physical illnesses.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “it doesn’t matter if the pregnancy will ruin the woman’s life”

    Hilarious. How exactly is a pregnancy going to ruin a woman’s life? Probably more likely the opposite. Childlessness and delayed childbearing are very significant risk factors for mental and physical illnesses.

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